Acupuncture Fatigue Study treats Women with Breast Cancer

Posted on Feb 20, 2012 in Health and Wellness, Research Articles | Comments Off on Acupuncture Fatigue Study treats Women with Breast Cancer

Breakthrough Breast Cancer launches the world’s largest and most advanced clinical trial to investigate whether acupuncture may help women with breast cancer cope with fatigue, a major side effect of breast cancer treatment. The ACU.FATIGUE study is the first to be funded as part of Breakthrough’s programme of research to develop high quality, scientific studies looking at complementary therapies used by breast cancer patients
Over 60% of breast cancer patients use complementary therapies to try to help ease the side effects of their treatment such as fatigue, nausea or hot flushes. However, little is currently known about how they may work or how safe they are for patients to use alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Breakthrough’s ACU.FATIGUE study, led by Professor Alex Molassiotis, Professor of Cancer & Supportive Care at The University of Manchester, aims to recruit 320 women who have undergone chemotherapy within the last five years and have high levels of fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is a feeling of persistent exhaustion or loss of strength whilst undergoing treatment. It is different from ‘normal’ fatigue experienced by healthy individuals in that it is not relieved by rest or sleep. The study will be the world’s largest clinical trial of acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients and only the second of its kind worldwide. It will also be the first to examine the benefits of self-acupuncture for women with breast cancer.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, says;
“Many women use complementary therapies to try and help alleviate treatment side effects, increase their quality of life and reduce stress. However there is little information available for women to know whether or not something will work or whether it may interfere with their conventional treatment. There is a real need to understand more about the effectiveness and safety of complementary therapies such as acupuncture in cancer patients.”
Eligible patients will be randomly selected to receive either weekly sessions of acupuncture for 6 weeks or standard care. After this period, patients in the acupuncture group will then be randomly selected to continue for a further 4 weeks to either receive weekly acupuncture by a therapist, undertake self acupuncture or receive no acupuncture. All patients’ fatigue levels will be monitored throughout this study, which will last for 3 years.
The clinical trial will be conducted at the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. Professor Alex Molassiotis says;
“Acupuncture is one of the more established complementary therapies and studies suggest that it is safe in the hands of a competent practitioner*. Other studies have shown that acupuncture may help ease nausea caused by chemotherapy and certain types of pain. Now we want to find out whether there is an added benefit of reducing levels of cancer-related fatigue, which can be debilitating and distressing and often mistaken for depression.
“The results of this research could, improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients and add to the limited treatment choices for managing cancer related fatigue.”
Shirley Rutter, aged 53 from Shropshire, used acupuncture during her treatment for breast cancer. She says;
“I’ve explored a variety of complementary therapies including acupuncture and found them to be beneficial. I know people can be sceptical of complementary therapies, which is why research into this area is needed – patients need proof of whether these therapies work. Breakthrough’s study into whether acupuncture can help ease fatigue is an important step forward.”
Working with Professor Molassiotis will be Professor Alison Richardson, Professor of Cancer and Palliative Nursing Care at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, Dr Jacqueline Filshie, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Management at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and Dr Peter Mackereth, Clinical Lead in Complementary Therapies at the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.
For more information about Breakthrough’s work, including the ACU.FATIGUE study, please visit
* Vincent C, (2001), British Medical Journal, 323: 9-10.
– Complementary therapies include therapies such as relaxation techniques, massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy that are used alongside conventional treatments. They are NOT given with the aim of curing the disease.
– Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional treatments. Alternative therapies are used in place of conventional treatment, which Breakthrough does not advocate.